Corporate health and wellness programs often focus on fitness and are implemented to help cut back on employee sick days, increase job satisfaction and foster a higher level of productivity. But new studies suggest that creative activities also may be an important part of improving employees' well-being.
Kevin Eschleman, an organizational psychologist at San Francisco State University, and his colleagues recently studied the direct effect of outside creative pursuits on employee job performance. The study was meant to explore the idea that creative activities during free time might assist in helping employees recover from the daily stresses of their job by helping them relax and challenge themselves with a new skill. Not only did they prove this theory was correct, but they also found a strong boost in areas such as problem solving and helping others.
In the study, the researchers asked 341 employees about the creative activities they engaged in outside work — for example, writing short stories or playing video games. The survey also asked about how the employees took charge of their off-the-clock schedules, how they would rate their creativity on the job and how well they assisted their co-workers with problems.
The researchers also asked a separate group of participants — 92 active-duty U.S. Air Force captains — about their creativity at home and during their recovery, but then also evaluated their job performance as assessed by their own peers and subordinates.
Members of both groups usually described their personal creative activity as a deep experience with a multitude of benefits. "But they also talk about this idea of self-expression and an opportunity to really discover something about themselves," Eschleman said.
Many of these studies have focused on people working in high-stress jobs in health care or the military. However, Eschleman said all employees will need this type of recovery during their own stressful times — for example, when meeting tight deadlines, organizing large events or handling management shifts. Eschleman recommended that employers encourage their workers to take part in creative activities outside of work, but he also stressed that this subject must be approached carefully.
"One of the main concerns is that you don't want to have someone feel like their organization is controlling them, especially when it comes to creative activities, because intrinsic motivation is part of that unique experience that comes with creative activity," Eschleman said.
A great way to nudge employees toward artistic activities is to bring creativity to the workplace. Companies like Zappos expertly accomplish this by having their employees decorate workspaces with their own art. Other ideas may include offering corporate discounts to art fairs or local museums.
Originally published on Business News Daily.